Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story (2023)

Director: Gary Smart, Chris Griffiths

Running Time: 129 Minutes

Certification: 15

After delivering an exhaustive documentary with Pennywise: The Story of IT, the makers have moved from covering a mini-series which scared a generation to the legacy and career of horror icon Robert Englund. That is far from what the beloved actor sought to become, as the boy preordained to be a lawyer found a love for acting despite his father's wishes.

Resembling an extended interview with the charismatic actor, the documentary delivers touching recollections of Englund's past relationships and roles while also sharing fun tales, including how a shoot of The Last Showing coincided with an early screening of the latest Minions movie. Adding to the picture are talking head interviews of Englund's friends and colleagues, aiding the personal feeling brought by the inclusion of clips and photographs. There is a sweetness to the tales recounted, although it can feel veering towards a puff piece for the actor.

Excellent editing choices help bring this work alive, peaking with a phenomenal inclusion from 2010's A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. Speaking of the fedora wearing elephant in the room, it is worth mentioning how the documentary does not limit itself to Englund's most iconic role, allowing recollections of works like Hustle, Big Wednesday, and V, while understandably devoting a good portion to Freddy Krueger.

As the dream stalking child-murderer ironically became a hit with kids, what led to the character's popularity was the charismatic performance which deftly juggled humour and horror. Part of that is due to the performance not relying on body language like some mask-wearing horror icons, as Robert still has to act underneath extended make-up. Such popularity led to the studio backtracking on a bone-headed idea of recasting the role after the first film, while the character expanded into items such as a television show and a phone line (items which Englund admits to doing for the money).

Such popularity preventing Englund from branching out to other roles, while also allowing others to capitalize on his icon status, with Cannon Films giving the star a larger payday for 1989's The Phantom Of The Opera than New Line did for the Nightmare films. While the 90s saw horror icons diminishing, Englund finally got to work in other roles before pouring a seriousness into his 2000s roles as he put trust in new filmmakers.

His experiences have been passed onto the next generation of creatives, taking what he has learned and moving forward as an icon, while being noticed by new generations in shows such as Stranger Things and The Goldbergs. What remains is a documentary which paints a lovely portrait of the big hearted man behind the glove, who brought alive so many characters and thankfully gets to keep working

Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story is now available on Blu-Ray and Digital Download